Ballard FC travel to Des Moines, Iowa to play Ventura County Fusion for the USL2 Western Conference Championship at 1:00 PM PST on Friday, July 29th. If they win, Ballard FC will take on the winners of the Central Conference Championship in the USL2 National Semifinals at 5:15 PM PST on Sunday, July 31st. The Central Conference Championship will be played by the hosts Des Moines Menace and the Flint City Bucks.
Ballard FC have had a remarkable inaugural season, finishing second in the USL2 Northwest Division and making the USL2 playoffs as the fourth seed in the Western Conference. So far, Ballard FC have beaten the first (Project 51O) and fourth (San Francisco Glens SC) seeded teams from the Southwest Division to make it to the Western Conference Finals. The Ballard FC attack is highlighted by the USL2 Northwest Division leading scorer, Alex Mejia, and former United States youth international, Declan McGlynn. The backline is led by University of Pennsylvania’s Leo Burney and Lesotho international Lesia Thetsane. Both McGlynn and Burney have regularly featured on the USL2 Top Prospects list this season. Featuring a plethora of talent from local universities (Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, and University of Puget Sound) and many players who played their high school and youth club soccer in the Seattle area, Ballard FC have really bought into the hyperlocal focus as a club. There are also plenty of local stars on the Ballard staff as well. One of Ballard FC’s co-founders, Lamar Neagle, played in the MLS for nearly decade with multiple stints for the Seattle Sounders. Head coach Jason Farrell also had two stints with the Sounders in his decade-long MLS career. With fans packing Reuben’s Brews for Friday’s watch party, Ballard FC will look to extend their inaugural season even further with a win Friday afternoon.
Ballard FC will open the weekend against Ventura County Fusion SC for the Western Conference Final. Ventura County finished second in the USL2 Southwest Division, tied on points with first placed Project 51O but with an inferior goal difference. To make the Western Conference Finals, Ventura County upset Flatirons Rush in the first round and then defeated their division rivals, the Southern California Seahorses. The Fusion attack is led by Logan Farrington and Nathaniel Opoku. Farrington plays for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Opoku plays NAIA for Lindsey Wilson. Similarly to Project 51O, The Fusion have multiple teams and function as a youth development academy in which players can continually be promoted to higher teams within the club as they improve. The Fusion have competed in USL2 for a much longer time compared to many of the other teams in the league, winning the National Championship in 2009 and consistently being a competitive side. Ballard FC have beaten two teams in a row from the Southwest Division and will hope to make it a third by defeating the Fusion on Friday.
Des Moines Menace are hosting both the Western and Central Conference Championships on Friday as well as one of the National Semifinals between Friday’s winners on Sunday. They are the reigning USL2 National Champions and are consistent league powerhouses. One of the biggest advantages for the Menace is that they usually field a much older team that relies on fewer college players. This means that fewer of their star players have to leave early to report for their college season and miss some of the playoffs. Current Ballard FC co-founder, Lamar Neagle, actually is a former Menace player himself, competing in the 2007-2008 season for Des Moines. The Menace won the USL2 Deep North Division and are undefeated with 12 wins and two draws (including postseason). The Menace team is very balanced, but their attack is highlighted by Alessandro Salvadego, Eliot Goldthorp, Ryley Kraft, and Brandon Bermingham. The majority of the Menace squad are returners from last season’s National Championship side. The Menace are favorites to win it all again this year, but Ballard FC will hope to have something to say about that if the two teams meet on Sunday.
Taking on the Menace Friday night are the Flint City Bucks. The Bucks finished second in the USL2 Great Lakes Division and had to upset both the third (South Bend Lions) and second (Chicago FC United) seeded teams in the Central Conference to make Friday’s Conference Final. The Bucks are led by a high-powered attack, finishing the regular season with a remarkable +18 goal difference. Their lethal attack relies on the goalscoring of Jelldrik Dallmann, who had double digit goals in the regular season. Dallmann played striker for Niagara University and will transfer this fall to Lipscomb University where he hopes he can continue his fine form from this summer. The Michigan club are a USL2 powerhouse, winning the National Championship in 2019 and always competing for a playoff spot. This year, the Bucks will look to enhance their league legacy even further by upsetting the Menace in Des Moines Friday night.
You can watch Friday’s match LIVE at the Reuben’s Brews for the Taproom Watch Party at 1:00 PM PST/ 3:00 PM CST or stream it on the Central Iowa Sports Network (CISN) or their YouTube. The winners of Friday’s matches will play Sunday in the National Semifinals which will also be covered by CISN. The winners of the National Semifinals will then play in the National Championship on Saturday August 6th. All USL2 playoff matches can be followed live on Eleven Sports and by monitoring the USL2 website as well as their social media.